Director: Lauren Lazin
Topic: The powerful and tragic story of hip-hop icon Tupac Shakur, told in his own words. Made several years after his death, the film weaves interviews and appearances into a cinematic whole that explores Shakur’s music, poetry, political activism and indelible mark on pop culture.
Financier: MTV Films and Amaru, the production company of Shakur’s mother Afeni (a former member of the Black Panthers).
Budget: Lazin won’t disclose specific figures, but does allow that “it was a low budget. The bulk of our cost was the rights to the music.”
Shooting format: Lazin did her own lensing on Super 16mm. She and her team also transferred pre-existing materials from Beta, VHS and DV. “We didn’t just do a blowup,” Lazin says. “We spent time making sure that it is a beautiful viewing experience.”
Why it made the list: The subject is explored not just as a hip-hop superstar, but as a son, an articulate scholar of great literature and a race-relations visionary.
Memorable scene: A prescient Shakur reflects on his own mortality: “I just felt like something was going to happen to me. … I had a prophecy about my death. That’s why I like to go into the studio and do three songs a day, get things ready. If anything were to happen to me, that album’s ready to go.”
Distribution/ broadcast status: Paramount Pictures released on 800 screens nationwide Nov. 14, 2003.
Box office: $7.7 million
On making the film: “He was not afraid to be brutally honest with himself,” says Lazin of her subject. “There’s the phrase “keeping it real,” which you almost can’t even say any more in hip-hop because it’s such a cliche, but he really was that. He embodied that. And to me, it made the story that much more moving.
“All different kinds of people — different races and genders and ages — walk away from this film feeling, ‘He’s like me. I relate to him,’ ” Lazin observes. “There is a certain charisma he had that I think helps the film (reach) a lot of different types of audiences.”